Kotor is one of the tourist areas in Montenegro. Numerous cruise ships dock here and if you talk to other Montenegro holidaymakers, most of them are drawn to Kotor and Budva.
But is it really worth planning a visit to Kotor? I admit I was sceptical after the disappointing visit to Budva – but you shouldn’t judge what you haven’t seen yourself.
Trip from Cetinje to Kotor
So we set off from Cetinje to Kotor.
There are two possible routes from Cetinje to Kotor. One route leads via Budva – we had already taken this route the year before. According to our host, the other route was much more scenic. Yes, and then she grinned at me and asked if I was afraid of driving. After our experience of the last holiday in Montenegro, all alarm bells should have been ringing loudly now – but they were quite quiet and so we simply ignored them.
The drive first passed the Lovćen National Park and slowly the road spiralled higher and higher. At first, the road was still wide and one or two buses could be seen. For me, this was a sign that it would not be so narrow after all. But far from it. The buses only drove up to a certain point and then the road began to get narrower and narrower and sometimes quite steep. As soon as an SUV came towards you, you had to drive very close to the rocky forest to pass each other.
But I still have to say that the drive is really worth it. At one point (there is also a small restaurant and some parking spaces for the cars) we stopped and enjoyed the fabulous view of the Bay of Kotor. From up here, the bay looks fantastic.
After an extensive photo stop, we continued towards Kotor. From there, it was all downhill and a serpentine route into the valley began. Sometimes you really had to watch out for oncoming traffic in the bends, they were so steep and narrow.
Through Kotor by car
Finally we arrived at the entrance to Kotor – and were stuck in a traffic jam!
Well, as a city dweller you are used to traffic jams, but I didn’t expect to make progress at a snail’s pace here.
On the navigation device I had enough time to look for parking spaces. There is a large central car park in the middle of the city, which we had actually chosen. But it would have taken a while to get there in this traffic. By chance, however, I discovered a sign right at the entrance to the town pointing to another car park in the immediate vicinity of the bus station. We made a quick decision to turn off and drive to the guarded, paid and empty car park, which was located on an old factory site. Parking cost € 0.70 per hour, which I consider a fair price.
From this car park, you can reach the old town of Kotor on foot in about 10 minutes. The ideal choice for us.
Stroll through the old town
At an entrance through the city wall, we enter the old town of Kotor. Here it flashes and twinkles everywhere, the houses are well-kept, the streets are clean and numerous shops and restaurants attract guests.
I am a bit ambivalent – sure, I like it too, but it is a very different picture of Montenegro that is shown to visitors here than in numerous cities in the interior of the country. During our stay, we saw places that were away from the tourist hype and showed much more of how Montenegrins live. I could also stand here in any city.
As we stroll through the small streets and look into the shops, it quickly becomes clear that there is everything to buy here. From tourist souvenirs to designer clothes, everyone wants to make money from the many visitors. Many restaurants are located in small squares and you can sit outside and watch the hustle and bustle. Of course, you have to pay a little more here, but if you go to the smaller side alleys, the price drops noticeably and the food there will certainly not be worse.
And there really are a lot of visitors. Two cruise ships are moored in the bay and numerous coaches with Croatian and Serbian markings had passed us as we walked from the car park to the old town.
I really liked the look of the old town. Nevertheless, I can understand that in Kotor the cruise ships with their day visitors are a good source of income, but also destroy the actual life in the town.
Another tip: The Old Town paths are made of cobblestones, which have become smooth over time and are very slippery in some places. It is advisable to wear good shoes!
1200 stairs – at 30 degrees
In the old town, somewhat hidden between the houses, is the real challenge we have set ourselves for this day. A somewhat grumpy man lets us step through a turnstile after we have each paid an entrance fee of €8. Ahead of us is the path to one of the viewpoints above the city, the path up to the old fortress. A path that, as I read later, has over 1200 stairs.
A steep path with countless steps winds its way up here. On one side of the path there are small steps. It is preferable for those walking downhill to walk here, because the other part of the path is partly gravel or smooth stones and we have seen many a person slip there while walking downhill.
At the beginning, we walk briskly uphill, but as time goes by, the heat and the path demand one or two “victims” who stop exhausted at the edge and then turn around. You have to be physically fit if you want to get all the way to the top – or you should take your time and take lots of breaks. My heart rate also shoots up, the sweat runs and, as so often, I am annoyed that we once again set off unprepared without taking anything to drink with us. My legs are getting tired and I prefer not to look up, the path seems to have no end. I admit, the last bit was pure willpower, but after an hour we finally arrived at the viewpoint.
What can I say, it was worth it! The view is breathtaking! You can see almost the entire bay and also Kotor from above. We were lucky enough to witness the departure of a cruise ship. From up there, it looked like a toy ship and you can hardly imagine that there are several thousand people on board.
We spent quite a while in the different areas of the ruins and quickly forgot the strenuous climb. To be honest, the way back to the city was also quite strenuous. More than 1200 steps make your knees shake at the end.
Some advice from us:
- Due to the nature of the trail, sturdy shoes are recommended!
- There is no toilet!
- Take something to drink with you. There are some vendors on the way who offer something at overpriced prices.
- Take your time – the way is the goal! Look forward to a great experience and don’t give up!